Authors: J. Lilley
‘Leira, it’s time to go.’
She left Donny without a backward glance, and they moved slowly into the trees.
‘I need to speak to Rach alone tomorrow. When is your free period?’ He knew he could trust Leira to help him.
‘Will you cover for her, please? I can get out of my P.E. class, and I’ll take her somewhere to talk.’
Leira growled her assent, and Brios was pleased. He didn’t want Rach to get into trouble, but he needed to speak with her somewhere where they wouldn’t be interrupted, and he couldn’t think of a better way to do it. Somehow he didn’t think her dad would say yes if he asked him his permission, so he’d do something he hadn’t done very often and skip a lesson. He had a sudden thought.
‘This is one occasion where you most definitely don’t do as I do Lei, promise?’
He could see the smirk on her jowls as she rumbled her assent.
In the end it was easier than he thought to get Rach to meet him. As he entered the school foyer she was standing to one side.
Waiting for me?
He liked to think so.
He could tell without any Shalean sensing whatsoever that she was not happy. Struan was standing much too close to her and trying to have a conversation. He watched as one finger jabbed Struan sharply in the chest.
“Look, I’m not interested.” Jab. “Get it?” Jab. “I do not want to go dancing, to the pictures or even hold a conversation with you.” Jab, jab, jab. “You’re talking of things about which you know nothing, and as well as that you’re a rude, jumped-up little shit. Now sod off, or I’ll make you. Ever had a schoolbag in the balls? Because, now’s your chance.” There were a couple more jabs for emphasis.
Brios reminded himself never to upset her. She sounded dangerous, and it seemed her temper matched her hair. So did the color of Struan’s face. He scowled when he saw Brios walking up.
“Might have known you’d get your nose in somewhere,” Struan remarked nastily. “Always got to be showing off somehow.” He flicked his finger over Rach’s cheek, and before Brios could retaliate, Rach did it for him. The schoolbag swung through the air and Struan went down like the proverbial log hugging himself.
“Next time you touch me I’ll send your balls where the sun doesn’t shine,” Rach said softly so no teacher could hear, before dropping her schoolbag and just missing the curled up Struan again. “That was a warning; no strength behind it. Watch out if I do use some effort.”
Then she spoke loudly for the benefit of a couple of passing teachers, and ignoring the giggles of some of the pupils in the area. “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. Oh clumsy me. Are you all right? I didn’t drop it on anything that matters did I?”
Her answer was a gurgle. The first-aid assistant hurried up and shooed Rach and Brios away.
“Horrible little toad. Next time …”
“There won’t be a next time Rach, I promise you. Look,” Brios said urgently, “we need to talk. Can you meet me at the end of first period? If you can get to the side gate I’ll pick you up. Please Rach, it’s really important; just this once. Leira will cover for you.” Slowly she nodded and he heaved a sigh of relief.
Struan sent hate darts in Rach’s direction as the concerned assistant helped him to his feet. With a swift backward glance, Brios walked rapidly up the stairs to his registration room. He knew he’d have to keep a close eye on him.
Brios ignored everyone, and was pulled up by his teacher for not paying attention. Economics was one of his strongest subjects, but seemed to go on forever before it finally was over. The second the ringing of the bell faded he was up and out; not even acknowledging Donny who was obviously wanting to talk to him.
‘Bri, watch out for Struan. He’s mouthing off about you and Rach, and hinting at all manner of murky doings. You might need to get the council to speak to him. He’s never going to accept that you’ll be Patriarch. The council needs to be aware.’
Brios knew that Donny must think this was a serious matter if he was projecting at school.
‘Maybe, but not yet; we’ll keep an eye on him. We both know he thinks he should be in my place.’
‘As if he could Bri; he’s a sneaky piece of shit. He will try and cause you trouble, we both know that; and he’ll drag Rach into it. ‘Cos let’s face it, you don’t need to be Einstein to know she’s the one.’
That was said confidently. It pleased Brios to know how much Donny backed him, though he was not so sure about the ‘she’s the one’ bit. Hell, he’d hardly come to terms with that, and here was his best mate confidently predicting what was going to happen.
He’d have to keep Struan under close surveillance. A previous aborted try to chat up Leira had resulted in Donny threatening to claw him, and now it seemed he was stalking Rach.
His mother was a cousin of Brios’s dad and so he thought he should have more powers. Struan had always resented him, Brios thought as he made his way to his car; however, he hadn’t realized just how much until recently.
No way, not in a million years.
He had deliberately not used the car park that morning, but parked just outside the school grounds, making it relatively easy to leave unseen. Rach was waiting for him outside the gate. She looked worried sick as she got into the passenger seat and put her seat belt on.
“My dad says I can’t have anything to do with you Bri. Why? What’s going on? I’ve never defied him before—well, not on something major like this.”
He didn’t answer straight away; he drove swiftly but safely to a parking spot overlooking the river. Then he switched off the engine and swiveled in his seat to look at her. They only had half an hour and he had so much to try and explain.
“Perhaps he thinks I’m too old for you. Two years at our ages is a lot.” He knew that wasn’t all of the reasons, but it might do for now. His mind was whirring, trying to decide just how much to explain and the best way to do it.
“Crap. For god’s sake Bri, he knows we only want to be friends.” She blushed. “Leira’s my friend, and you’re her brother. I’m not allowed to contact you at all.”
“Yet you’re here,” Brios pointed out.
“Because it’s unfair and I wasn’t going to cut you dead without telling you what was going on. Hell, Brios, I like you, I really want to be friends. If you hadn’t suggested this I was going to. Dad is being totally irrational about you, and I want to know why.”
Brios took her hand and felt the zing of connection. He could tell Rach felt it too as she tried to rub her fingers together; not easy when he was holding on to them.
“Really? Only friends—even with this?” He looked at her closely.
Rach felt an electric zap up her arm. She couldn’t figure out what was going on; why Brios was looking at her the way he was.
‘Can you hear me?’
Argh, why do I keep thinking I hear voices in my head? Dad definitely has to stop this foraging lark.
He might think it was fun to go and collect blackberries and mushroom and things that grew wild, but Rach could still remember the time the mushrooms sent her all giggly and silly, and gave her weird and wonderful thoughts—like now. Dad said they were magic mushrooms and he hadn’t meant to pick them, but she had a feeling he’d made the same mistake again.
‘You can hear voices Rach—my voice. It’s me! Look at me Rach.’
“Brios? What …” She didn’t know what to say, how did you ask someone if they were messing about with your mind?’
“It’s a gift, and it’s not messing.” At least that was real and out loud.
“Um, what do you mean?” Rach asked cautiously, not really sure she wanted to hear his explanation.
“I can send messages to you.”
But, Brios looked sane, like a normal, hot-bod boy in a boring school uniform. But shoot—his face was solemn and he didn’t look as if he was ready for the funny farm.
She began to fumble with the door handle.
‘I’m sane, stop worrying.’
“Hells bells Brios, what the heck is this all about? How can I hear you when you’re not speaking?”
“It’s complicated. It’s a gift given to certain people. Who can project and receive thoughts.”
Rach thought about that. She figured she’d just smile and go along with it; just until she was back at school and away from him. One day she might just listen to her dad!
Then she looked closely at his face and realized he wasn’t joking.
‘Believe it Rach.’
Oh great! One more reason not to like it up here; a mind reading hottie … Ahh!
“So, I can hear you, or whatever you call it? Can you hear me?’ Brios nodded with a smile, and Rach felt her face go red. “Oh shit.”
Brios laughed out loud at that. Rach felt like hitting him. What if there was something in it? Did that mean she had to not think anything even slightly dodgy? She waited for some smart-ass comment to fill her mind, but nothing did.
“So, er, you don’t sense everything I say then?” She really wanted to know the answer to that.
To her relief, Brios shook his head.
“Rach I would never do that, it goes against our creed.”
To her disappointment, Brios looked at his watch and groaned. “Look we’ve got to get back to school. Rach, there’s so much I need to ask, to tell you about … to explain. We need to meet up somehow. You tell me how and when, and I’ll be there.”
Once again, Rach knew she was going to really defy her dad. In a great big going against everything he’d said way. It was not a nice feeling, but she knew she had to. “Okay, what’s your mobile number?”
Brios laughed out loud. A deep sexy laugh that set her toes curling.
“C’mon, Rach. Why do you need that, when you can project to me?”
“Project; what do you think you’ve been doing ever since we met? Not consciously, but time and time again. If you just try to do it without worrying about it, I’ll get the thought and I’ll answer.”
She got that loud and clear.
‘Yup, very okay … So what next?
Did you hear, sense or … whatever that?’
‘Sure did, so next? Back to school.’
How was she supposed to concentrate on math when there was so much to think about? It was as well she was good at the subject and ahead of the class.
Leira was eager for news.
“What’s going on?” she asked Rach as they were changing for gym.
Into another horrible color clash,
Rach thought resignedly,
why couldn’t we just wear boring beige? At least I wouldn’t look like a jalapeno pepper then.
“Loads—I’ll tell you at lunch when we’re by ourselves,” she added quickly as they went into the gym hall and saw a scowling Struan staring at them.
“Why is he such a creepy little caterpillar? He keeps staring at me and glaring. What have I ever done to him?” she muttered, as Leira burst out laughing; which made Struan scowl even more. She blushed. “Well apart from that!”
“Tell you later,” Leira whispered out of the side of her mouth as the gym teacher clapped his hands for attention.
Normally, Rach would have enjoyed a game of Pirates. Being tall and athletic, she could scramble up the ladders and ropes and never touch the floor and drown, or be tagged and caught by the pirate and have to sit out; but, the fourth time Struan deliberately pushed her and tried to knock her off the equipment she was seeing red. When she was riled her temper definitely matched her hair, and boy was she riled.
‘Keep calm. He’s trying to cause trouble.’
Huh? That isn’t Brios—that sounds like Leira. Holy cow, can she do this projecting thing as well?
‘Of course, I, too am Sha… oh shoot, sorry.’
There were no more thoughts. Instead, she received a shove from a menacing looking Struan.
She’d had enough. Before they moved, she hadn’t been County Under-sixteen Gym Champion for nothing. She twisted and dug her fingers under his arm; then grabbed his leg and put all her weight on top of him. With a howl of pain—well she admitted to herself, her knee
in a delicate position—he fell to the mats under the wall ladders and she fell on top of him. It was really difficult not to smirk.
“Out!” came from the teacher. Sniggers ran around the room. It seemed like Struan wasn’t the most popular person in this class.
“Sir, I didn’t touch the floor, he did,” Rach pointed out. She could sense Leira’s amusement loud and clear.
“True, fine Rach, you’re still in the game. Struan sit out, and don’t argue, I saw what happened.”
She thought he might disagree, but he didn’t; although his malevolence came through loud and clear.
‘Little bitch, I’ll make you pay.’
What the heck, now I can hear him as well? What is all this stuff?